Monday, January 3, 2011

Carson Clark's thoughtful Pt. 2 on "the issue" and the church's mishandling thereof

Before you read Pt. 2, be sure to read Pt. 1 (he links it), and also read the comments at Pt. 2. There were close to 40 when I looked yesterday, and many of them stand as warnings to really read what he's written rather than blather the usual talking points and accusations.

Which pretty much proves one of his contentions:

"Pardon me for being crass, but I can think of no better way to put this: By in large, theologians on either polarity have allowed their ideological commitments to take a dump on their theological methodology."

Carson is that archetypal "young person" that the polarized camps always say is with them. So it is a hoot to read comments that begin, "I stopped reading when you said..."

And I really like his take on the current church:

"It’s like the marriage counselor who’s been divorced five times. I believe in grace and forgiveness, but at that point the man needs to find a new profession. Anyone who takes him seriously is a fool. We’re in the same boat. This “Do what I say and not what I do” bullshit has got to stop and discerning church discipline has got to start. When the rate of divorce and addiction to internet pornography within our churches drops significantly, then we might regain the credibility to tell society about God’s intention for sex and marriage. Until then I say we shut up and focus our energy on removing the plank from our own eye. Maybe then we’ll see clearly enough to help our neighbor with the speck in his."

And he throws in this bomb that today's church is not equipped to defuse,

"Too many Christians completely ignore St. Paul’s teachings on celibacy. According to him, celibacy is actually greater than marriage. Yet in our oversexed society the expectation is that all people will have sex, so our churches try to channel those passions into marriage. I believe that this is one of those times when the Church must confront the culture rather than adapting to it. Celibacy needs to not only be restored as a viable option, but those who’ve chosen it ought be praised."

You have to drop any "Christendom" pretensions to read him. He's not arguing for a church ethic imposed on the wider culture. He's asking how the church can be true to its identity in Christ, no matter what the culture is doing. That's a jarring departure from the current church arguments, which are about which political ideology the church should submit to as a chaplaincy.

1 comment:

David Handy+ said...

Apt, incisive comments, Tim. You're absolutely right, and so is Carson Clark.

I think you've hit the nail on the head by focusing on the need to confront the dominant culture head-on, rather than conforming to it. Given our state church heritage as Anglicans, and given our broader European heritage of about 15 centuries of taking the Christendom, established-church social arrangement for granted, it is going to be extremely difficult to free ourselves from those deeply engrained habits.

We desperately need to rediscover how to be in the world but not of the world, for the sake of the salvation of a lost, confused world that's estranged from God and alienated from his life-giving ways. The great dilemma the so-called "mainline" churches face in our time is that we must make a fateful choice between staying in the cultural mainstream or returning to the Christian mainstream, since the two loyalties are now mutually exclusive and in irreconciliable conflict.

May this new year be one of great fruitfulness for you, Tim, and for your flock at Good Shepherd Church in Sioux Falls.